Male sex role and responses to disclosures by adult male survivors of sexual abuse
Spencer, Tanya Dee
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Research evidence indicates that male survivors o f sexual abuse fear being labelled unmasculine or homosexual upon disclosure. They express the social maxim that masculine men don’t get sexually abused and gay men shouldn’t complain. The male sex role contains a strong prohibition against feminine behaviour in males that is enforced through homophobic attitudes. The objective of the current study was to investigate empirically factors that influence reactions toward disclosure by male sexual abuse survivors. The present study investigated reactions to a hypothetical adult male survivor. Ninety-two male and 92 female participants responded to a vignette in which a 30- year-old male stimulus person (SP) disclosed sexual abuse by a male or female offender when the SP was 5,15, or 25 years old. Dependent variables were sex-role perceptions o f the SP’s masculinity and fem ininity, attitude toward the SP and offender, attributions of responsibility to SP characteristics and behaviour and to offender, male sex role endorsement and rape myth acceptance, and behavioural appraisal for the SP. Results indicate that sex of participant, sex o f offender, and age at incident affect perceptions of the male discloser. As SP age at incident increases, the SP was seen as less masculine, held more responsible for the incident and faced increased application of the traditional male sex role and rape myths by participants. Female, rather than male, participants had a more positive attitude toward SP, a more negative attitude toward the offender and held the SP less responsible. While female participants prescribed the traditional male sex role and rape myths to the SP to a lesser degree when the offender was a female than a male, male participants’ responses on these two variables were not affected by the sex of offender. Overall, results demonstrate that male survivors who disclose to other males, survivors who are older at the time o f the abuse and whose offender was a female receive less positive responses.
- Retrospective theses